Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Christmas Comes But Once a Year, THANK GOD

Happy New Year!

How was your Christmas? I'm sure you're all still warm and fuzzy from the sights, the sounds and the smells of the holiday; the lights on the tree, the sounds of bells chiming, the smell of ham.

I am, too, but for me it was seeing the door slam, the sound of my child sobbing and calling me a liar and the smell of my brain on fire inside my skull as I fervently tried to dig myself out of a hole.

Because this was the Christmas that Kiyomi realized there was no Santa Claus.

Come join me as I relive that joyous morning, won't you?

In hindsight, I should have sensed trouble. She seemed pretty subdued for a Christmas morning. Her and Kira actually took turns opening their presents, like a pair of characters from an Elizabethan novel: I've opened one, now you open one, dear sister! Oh, isn't this splendid! In other words, polite and civilized, nothing resembling a normal human child on Christmas morning.

After the last present had been opened, Rigel and I continued our usual Christmas morning tradition: we went back to bed. This may not be something you practice in your home, but we figure what better way to celebrate Jesus' birth than to sleep like a baby in a manger for a couple of hours. After we woke up and made breakfast, we didn't give much thought to the fact that Kiyomi was at the computer instead of playing with the piles of toys and video games covering the living room floor. I figured she was probably on Craigslist trying to trade in those pajamas I bought her, or emailing one of her friends to complain about the fact that she hadn't gotten that puppy she asked for.

But when we sat down for breakfast I could tell something was wrong, and that's when Kira told me that Kiyomi had been Googling "is Santa Claus real?" all morning, and judging by her mood it was obvious she hadn't found that website called "You Bet He Is!" or that other one that has actual footage of the fat guy coming down the chimney, right next to that YouTube spot of BigFoot.

First let me say that the whole Santa Claus thing has always been my deal, not Rigel's. He never grew up with Santa, or the Tooth Fairy, or anything make-believe for that matter, although I do remember him telling me about tbe time in high school when he smoked that funny cigarette and saw the Easter Bunny chasing Eric Clapton across the desert.

So when the girls were small and we were discussing it, he wasn't in favor of it. In fact, I remember his parents being here at the time and they were trying to talk me out of it, but I insisted that MY KIDS WOULD GROW UP WITH SANTA, DAMMIT. I refused to accept the alternate scenario, telling the girls that all their presents came from Macy's and the only reason Santa was invented was so that the Salvation Army would have someone to ring that bell outside of Walgreens.

That said, I loved growing up with the idea of Santa, and I don't remember any trauma or feelings of deceit when I found out he wasn't real. it was just one of those things that you realize gradually, like the fact that your parents had sex at least a few times, or that Ms. Swain, your sixth grade gym teacher with the fanny pack and all the keychains was probably gay. I had good memories of writing letters to Santa, waking up on Christmas morning to see what he had brought me - I don't remember when I actually found out he wasn't real, although the fact that his handwriting was identical to my mother's should have tipped me off.

Getting back to Christmas morning, when I tried to ask Kiyomi if she wanted to talk about it, she ran crying to her room and slammed the door. What followed was like some script from a bad ABC AfterSchool Special, the one where a young Jodie Foster finds out that Santa isn't real and spends all morning asking, "Why, pa, why? Why'd you and ma lie to me?" only to find out that she's also adopted and her dog is dead. That's when she finds the ax in the barn and the movie ends with her chopping their covered wagon to pieces. It's a good one - you should rent it sometime.

Kiyomi yelled (through the door) for us to go away, that she didn't want to talk to us. That we had lied to her, and how could she ever believe anything else we told her? And what about "all the other children of the world who believe in Santa and their parents are lying to them?" Then there was the speech about how it was never about the presents, it was about the magic, and now the magic was dead, was gone, and it was all our fault, her lying parents. And there was the sobbing about how she had put her heart into those letters, and to now find out that it was her lying parents that were reading them the whole time.

Oh, and did I mention her parents were liars? She made sure to point that out.

And then the kicker. "And I suppose the Tooth Fairy isn't real EITHER??!!"

I thought about that one for a heartbeat, but then figured if we were laying it all out on the table why not go for it? And I remembered all those nights I had to stay up late and tiptoe into their rooms, and all the frantic midnight searches through our wallets for dollar bills, and the one time Kira woke up just as Rigel was sneaking in and he spent a good twenty minutes lying on the floor, trying not to breathe.

"No, honey, she's not real either."

*silence* *silence* *silence*


Maybe that wasn't the right answer.

In our defense, our answer to the "Is Santa real?" question has always been, "As long as you want to believe in him, he's real." And we honestly thought she'd figured the whole thing out anyways, since she'd been saying things like, "I can't wait for Santa to come! Or should I say, mom and dad?" and end it with a wink and a nod. During her tirade, we tried to explain to her that we had only done it because we thought that it would bring her joy, and that magic is something that everyone believes in at one time or another. She may have bought it, but at that point I think she was too busy sharpening her ax.

It went on forever, and ended with kind of a whimper, but I was in tears by that point and we were all tired of talking about it. I think she heard at least some of our fifty-thousand reasons why we had done what we did, because she finally opened the door and came out. Rigel went off to calculate how much money we would save next year by not having to buy separate gifts from Santa, and I left to pick up my mom to bring her back for Christmas dinner. By the time I got back, Kiyomi was prancing around, back to her old self, and came up and gave me a hug and thanked me for all her gifts. I'm thinking she may have suddenly come to the realization that there would be fewer gifts under the tree next year and not as many miniature bottles of nail polish in her stocking, and how any tooth lost would only get her a pat on the back and a small wax envelope from here on out.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat, and I'm pretty sure that when the time comes for my girls to decide whether or not to have Santa in their kids' lives, they'll do it too. In fact, Kiyomi's already mentioned how Christmas may not be as fun next year without Santa (I interjected, "You mean, the FAKER?" just to be mean) and has hinted that she may still write him a letter, if you can believe that.

I think I'll just sign all her presents "From The Tooth Fairy."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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  1. I guess you could have told her that of course Santa is real, he's just dead. It was on the news while you were sleeping. Reindeer accident.

    We've never tried to convince our 4YO that Santa is real, but he seems to have wanted to believe that this year, so we just kind of went along with it.

  2. If you had told her the truth from the beginning eventually she would have come to you accusing you of not loving her enough to pretend like the other kids' parents do. Either way you lose.

    Heart-wrenching way to spend your Christmas morning, though.

  3. I like Antique Mommy's idea. Story at eleven!

  4. Yeah, well, my kids think I'm an elf and can TALK to Santa with my HEAD. They made that all up, but it was up to me to make it happen. My son has caught on and was fine. My daughter, OHHHHH, there will be consequences. Oh yes. There will be consequences. I anticipate a re-enactment of your story. Sigh.

    I may take AM's advice and kill the bugger. ;)

  5. Uh, Santa isn't real?

    Who keeps bringing all this vodka?

  6. Yeah, we had the big Santa revelation this year too. It didn't go quite as badly as yours, but I did hear a few "you lied to me!"s.

    Tough one, that.

  7. I was like you... eventually realized and shrugged it off. But I love this post. LOVED it.

    How do you always write the BEST posts. Every entry is always freaking awesome!

  8. My mother never stood with santa, though she would always sign the gifts 'from santa...'
    i'll probably be the same with my kids, kind of non-chalant about it. i don't think you were wrong, there's nothing wrong with wanting your kids to believe in stuff. tooth fairy is going to be huge at my house...that i can tell you!

  9. I held onto Santa as long as I could - we never let on that we knew he wasn't real cos we got more pressies that way. In my late 20's my mum came to me and said "Look, I KNOW you can't possibly still believe in Santa, he is not coming to you any more!"

  10. Toni is so OBVIOUSLY playing along at this point. But Jonah is riding the fence. At seven, he's still not savvy enough to do google searches. Thank you god.

    Two babies to go, but already they are subjected to Santa at their day care. We might as well go along for the ride and deal with potential blow-ups later. What the hell.

    What a great post, SPM!

  11. I'm with Antique Mommy--kill him off!
    Of course, she wouldn't be convinced, since it wasn't on Yahoo! news. ;)

  12. We had big plans embarking on this parenting adventure that we would carefully craft our answers about Santa, that Christmas would be about Jesus, etc.

    Now we're putting out freaking carrots for the reindeer, cookies for Santa, and the whole nine yards. April is five and starts public school next year, full of children just dying to tell her about the real deal with Santa.

    We are so screwed.

  13. Here's what I tell my kids- You have to believe to receive. My older kids know what's up, but they'll never mention it. Whenever any kid asks me whether or not he's real, I say "You have to believe to receive." Santa doesn't bring me anything because I don't believe he's real. I think the kids sneak out of bed in the middle of the night and leave the presents for themselves.

  14. K worries about this so much that he insists we talk about Santa as "The LEGEND".

  15. Oh no! I dread the day they start asking about Santa...you handled it perfectly!

  16. this reminds me of the time when i figured out the sham while screaming at my mother, " why does santa leave the price tags on his gifts?"

  17. I'd resolved never to tell any mini-moobses about Santa on the basis that having been proved a liar over the invisible gift-giing entity that is St Nick I might have trouble persuading them to believe in the invisible gift-giving (and ultimately judgmental) entity that is God.

    By the way I now also get to indulge my New Year's resolution to be an even bigger assho... er ... pedant: Sounds more like a Georgian novel than an Elizabethan one. If it were Elizabethan it would likely be an epic poem of some sort. Who would want that inflicted on them for Christmas?

  18. After my sister and I were all in on the Santa thing, my mother would sign presents "From The Easter Bunny" or "Tooth Fairy" or what have you.

    It's a tradition we have gleefully continued, but with my daughter turning 4 before next Christmas, I'm thinking we'll have to knock it off for a while. Sigh. I'll miss it.


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